War cemeteries’ visit ‘deeply moves’ Devizes pupils

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Devizes School students in the trenches at Bayernwald, Belgium Devizes School students in the trenches at Bayernwald, Belgium

Students from Devizes School last week visited the World War One battlefields of Flanders to pay tribute to the men of their town who laid down their lives for their country.

After researching the men of Devizes recalled on the town’s war memorial, students from Devizes School set off in the centenary year of the start of the Great War to pay their respects to local men who fought and died.

Historian Richard Broadhead, who advised the school on the trip, said: “Each student commemorated one the town’s local men, finding their names in war cemeteries and on war memorials of France and Belgium.”

A wreath was laid by two students, Sarah Hampton and Cameron Whittle, during the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

The ceremony is held at 8pm every day in Ypres and the buglers are volunteers from the town’s fire brigade.

Cameron said: “When I was chosen I was really scared, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am proud to have laid the wreath.”

The party visited many Great War sites and travelled to a small cemetery in the middle of the Somme battlefield and, after a ceremony, laid wreaths from Devizes School and poppy crosses from town primary schools.

Tom Strickland, the tour organiser, said: “I feel privileged to bring students to the site of this colossal conflict.

“It is an emotional experience the students will never forget and I hope they will return to the battlefields with their own families.”

Mr Strickland was also able arrange for students to visit the graves of relatives killed in the Great War.

Cameron Whittle said: “This is the first time any member of my family has visited John William Pallister, who was killed in action on November 13, 1916.”

Georgia Bullen found her relative Charles Frederick Simmons at Tyne Cemetery, the biggest war cemetery in Belgium where more than 11,000 service men are buried. He was killed on October 4, 1917.

Georgia said: “It is strange how differently I feel knowing this man is related to me. It has really upset me.”

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